Local charity Help Me Learn Africa has received a grant of 50,000 euros from the UEFA Foundation for Children, after being nominated by the Gibraltar FA, who have worked with the charity previously, including donating national team kits.
The charity, run by Gibraltarian Louise Barea, aims to raise funds for children in Africa to have an education, with their aim being to support local community schools in impoverished countries, whilst empowering people to volunteer and gain life-changing experiences. The charity has notably worked in Ghana, and due to its long-standing relationship with the GFA, it was nominated to the UEFA Foundation Board of Trustees, who today confirmed to the GFA that the charity would receive the grant of 50,000 EUR.
After the news was announced, GFA General Secretary Ivan Robba, talking on the official GFA site, said: “This is a fantastic recognition for Help Me Learn Africa, and a first for a Gibraltar charity, as the UEFA Foundation is a prestigious foundation that has worked with many charities worldwide. I have known Louise for many years and have been following her incredible work with Help Me Learn Africa which goes from strength to strength.
Her dedication to the cause is exemplary, and I had no hesitation in nominating the charity for this award. I am extremely happy for her and all those who will benefit from this award, and also grateful to the Board of Trustees of UEFA Foundation for Children for choosing our nomination.”
Also speaking to the GFA site, Louise Barea, founder of the charity, said: “I am in complete shock. I really didn’t expect to receive such recognition, but it just proves what I believe; that in life the more you give the more you receive. This award will have a huge impact on the lives of thousands of children living below the poverty line and I am excited to show the world all that we can do with it.
Thank you UEFA Foundation for Children for choosing Help Me Learn Africa, and a massive thank you to Ivan Robba for nominating us and to the Gibraltar FA for the ongoing support, trust and faith in me and my charity.”
HelpMeLearnAfrica are looking to expand into Kenya and Uganda in 2020, and you can find out more about the charitable organisation here.
The first main part of the FG Awards 2019/20 sees the awards for goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and striker of the season dished out, as well as the award for the best manager in the league this season.
Goalkeeper of the Season – Dayle Coleing (Europa FC)
The 23-year-old keeper has really stepped into his own this season, establishing himself as Europa’s clear number 1 despite the talent and vast experience of Javi Munoz, and being part of the backline which only conceded nine goals all season. Coleing’s commanding presence in the box has mirrored the commanding style of his team this season.
As well as breaking through into the national team, where he battles alongside Kyle ‘Chino’ Goldwin for the Number 1 shirt for Julio Ribas side, Coleing has also picked up interest outside of Gib – he recently was picked up by the Capital Sport Management group – and the future looks promising for the Europa keeper.
Other contenders: 2nd – Jamie Robba (St Joseph’s), 3rd – Kyle ‘Chino’ Goldwin (Lincoln), 4th – Bradley Banda (Lynx)
Defender of the Season – Olmo Gonzalez Casado (Europa FC)
One of the more challenging positions to choose from with Olmo & Sergio Sanchez creating such a dominant partnership. Olmo executed his defensive work with ease, giving Sanchez the freedom to venture up the pitch and scoring a total of four goals in thirteen league appearances – not bad for his debut season.
We opted for Olmo’s consistency, playing in fifteen of Europa’s seventeen league games – the Spanish defender also kept seven clean-sheets. His experience is vital in this team and Escobar will be hoping to keep him on for another year.
Other contenders: 2nd – Sergio Sanchez (Europa), 3rd – Ezequiel Rojas (St Joseph’s), 4th – Bernardo Lopes (Lincoln Red Imps)
Midfielder of the Season – Liam Walker (Europa FC)
Walker has led by example this season for his side, captaining the league leaders and scoring 21 goals in the process from an attacking role. His set-piece abilities are well known, but some of Walker’s free kick’s, especially an opening day one in a victory vs Lincoln, especially caught the eye as the 32-year-old pushed eventual top scorer Juanfri all the way in the scoring charts.
Walker’s vast experience both in Gib and abroad no doubt helps Europa massively, especially for some of their younger local talent, while his creative abilities have also set up countless goals for the likes of Manu Dimas, Juampe and more to get their fair share of goals this season.
Other contenders: 2nd – Cristian Pecci (St Joseph’s), 3rd – Alejandro Carrascal Aviles (Europa), 4th – Dan Bent (Bruno’s Magpies)
Striker of the Season – Juan Francisco ‘Juanfri’ Garcia Pena
Goals, goals, and more goals – that pretty much sums up Juanfri’s time at St Joseph’s since joining in 2018. “El Killer” as known by his team-mates are those close to him, Juanfri scored twenty goals in his debut season and followed it up with 24 league goals this season with four games still remaining before the league was made null and void.
Juanfri will best be known for scoring in both legs of St Joseph’s win over Prishtina in the Europa League and pulling off that famous celebration at the Victoria Stadium. His partnership with Boro and Domingo Ferrer Lopez keeps improving and soon will be bringing silverware home to St Joseph’s.
Other contenders: 2nd – Juampe (Europa), 3rd – Kike (Lincoln Red Imps), 4th – Alberto Caravaca (Lions)
Manager of the Season – Rafael Escobar Obrero
A fairly straightforward choice, in reality, Europa manager Rafael Escobar has guided his team to being undefeated at the Victoria Stadium for over 12 months now, and bar a few shaky moments in games vs the likes of Glacis & Lions, Europa’s tendency to drop unnecessary points seems to have been all but eradicated under his management.
Getting the best out of the attacking side of his team, while also ensuring a strong defensive aspect has made Europa very hard to beat, and you have to give credit to the manager for doing that. Escobar came with a good reputation having managed both Balona and Los Barrios in Spain, and he’s so far held that reputation strongly.
Other contenders: 2nd – Raul Procopio (St Joseph’s), 3rd – Albert Ferri (Lions), 4th – Albert Parody (Lynx)
With only four games remaining, the Gibraltar FA called off the league making it null and void. The European spots were handed out but no league winner announced. Here is our early review of the Championship Group.
Europa FC – 1st
While not being crowned champions has clearly left a very bitter taste in the mouths of all at Europa, they should no doubt still be happy at how their season went until the point of the league being terminated. From their opening week, eye-catching 4-1 win against Lincoln, Europa went on to be virtually unstoppable in the league, bar for a dramatic 2-2 draw against St Joseph’s in September which they were lucky not to lose.
They were of course expected to challenge for the title strongly, but few would have perhaps expected them to be unbeaten – past Europa sides have had a habit of very avoidable defeats that have cost them in the league dearly, but this Europa side, even when going behind in games, never looked like losing 99% of the time.
The emergence of Dayle Coleing in goal was a major plus for Rafael Escobar’s side, while the signing of Juampe from Balona was an inspired addition to a team who have never had trouble scoring. The plan for next season will be to try and maintain those levels, with St Joseph’s and Lincoln likely to be champing at the bit hoping to bring Europa down a peg or two.
St Joseph’s – 2nd
After years of coming so close in breaking the top two’s league dominance, Saints finally reached their potential this season. Sitting in second, five points behind Europa and five points in front of Lincoln with four games remaining.
Overall their season exceeded expectations – their Europa League campaign was memorable, came within minutes of beating Europa but would draw 2-2 in the final minute and did the league double of Lincoln.
The most important bit for Procopio and his men is to keep the same momentum and consistency going into whenever football restarts in Gibraltar.
Lincoln Red Imps – 3rd
For a team who have for so many years been the all-conquering, dominant force of local football, a third-place finish for Lincoln is disappointing – in fact, it is the first season they haven’t finished in the top two since the 1999/2000 season, where they finished fourth in a six-team league.
While they continued to beat the teams below them, normally with some ease, Lincoln came unstuck against both Europa and St Joseph’s, losing all four meetings against their title rivals. This saw their title hopes drift away in February, but there were some positive signs for the club, most notably the emergence of Julian Del Rio into the first team.
Next seasons aim for Lincoln has to be to appoint the right manager, after German Crespo’s departure earlier this week, and try to keep them in charge for a longer period than their last few managers – they have the squad, especially in attack, to challenge for titles, but stability is key if Lincoln wants to climb back on top of local football once again.
Lynx FC – 4th
Lynx was another team that started the season great, a 4th place finish is their highest since the 2014-15 season. Their three Croatians Hrvoje Bukvic, Ed Kokorovic, and Marko Marcius would play a big role in round one of the Gibraltar National League. Their departure would leave a big hole in the team and the results would show it with two wins from six games.
It has been a positive season for them though, Jaydan Parody has shown potential this season and Mohamed Badr has made the Gibraltar national team.
Brunos Magpies – 5th
Round one of the National League saw Magpies achieve their top half aims, albeit it was far less comfortable than expected, and saw the departure of David Wilson as manager, a move which proved unpopular among Magpies fanbase and seemed to hurt their attendances and atmosphere for a while after. They weren’t then helped by Alfonso Cortijo joining, only to leave for a job in China two months later, but he at least ensured they finished in the top six before the split.
Magpies issue seemed to be in beating the teams above them, with only a solitary cup win vs Lynx to their name vs the top four, so 5th place is a deserved finished, and perhaps around where the club would have hoped to finish, despite significant investment in both the summer and in January. Tight battles with St Joseph’s just before the league ended showed some hope they can battle with the big boys, presuming they don’t chop and change the squad too much this summer.
Lions Gibraltar – 6th
You can’t judge Lions’ season from their results in the Championship Group, with their financial resources not as strong as the others – the team itself knew what they were getting themselves into with a sixth-placed finish.
Lions did put in cracking performances in the Group and were unlucky not to get points on a couple of occasions. Looking at it from an overall perspective, Albert Ferri and his team showed great promise and that they don’t need to play so defensively to gain results.
With the Gibraltar National League halted due to COVID with the Gibraltar FA’s decision to null and void the league after a 2-month suspension – here is our early review of the Challenge Group.
Mons Calpe – 1st
In truth, Mons would have found themselves very disappointed to end up in the Challenge Group in the first place – they must have fancied themselves to finish above Lions and enter the Championship Group.
However, a much-changed and improved Mons had a good 2020, which culminated in reaching the semi-finals of the Gibtelecom Cup and all but securing the top spot in the Challenge Group before the season terminated. The challenge for Mons is to try and settle some of their off-field issues and try to build on their progress in 2020.
Europa Point – 2nd
Compared to their 2016-17 season in the top flight, Europa Point can find plenty of positives especially from January onwards. Ian Hendon and his team hard work reaped its rewards but a 5-5 draw against College 1975 before the suspension, would have left a sour taste in their mouths.
Europa Point will be keeping hold of Hendon and his players but most importantly, finding a good nucleus of HGP’s, the lack of which let them down for most of the season.
Manchester 62 – 3rd
Things were always going to be hard for Manchester, but third in the Challenge Group perhaps reflects where they were in terms of strength in the league. They would have perhaps hoped for Jeff Wood to last longer in the job but struck well in getting David Wilson, another former national manager, as his replacement.
Their commitment to local talent showed in the HGP tally, and Kian Ronan especially impressed, even as a makeshift striker – however Manchester will hope an 11-1 loss to Mons Calpe in their final game was not a sign of things to come next season, and was merely a one-off.
FC Boca Juniors – 4th
An underachieving team, if you look at their squad in the summer. Their lack of funds was their main downfall with most of their players leaving as a result. Boca announced Juan Carlos Camacho as their new head coach in November which lasted until January and following him out the door was their technical team.
Credit to them, the changes made in January were swift and were a competitive side for their level. Europa’s loanees Daniel Tudela and Elias Juel-Saleh were ones which impressed us over a short period of time.
Glacis United – 5th
Glacis suffered from a very stunted start to the season, where they had issues getting players registered in time for the opening games – meaning their Intermediate squad had to fill a lot of the gaps especially against Magpies and Lincoln. This gave them no chance of finishing in the top six, but in the Challenge Group they at least showed they were on the level of the teams around them.
One of Gibraltar’s more well-known teams, Glacis will hope they can get off to a better start next season – as second-bottom of the league will no doubt disappoint them massively.
College 1975 – 6th
After 18 games, College managed to pick up one point in a 5-5 draw against Europa Point – a game which they led 4-0 at one point. 17 straight defeats came previously, a tough lesson learned.
A worrying stat would be finishing bottom and having the least amount of minutes given to HGP’s outside of the top three.
We caught up with the five Gibraltarian youngsters who currently ply their trade in Spain with Peña Madridista Linense in category 3ª Andaluza Infantil.
Kai Bartolo, Michael Charvetto Parody, Jay Coombes, Daniel Smith, and Evan Villa gave us an insight into playing in Spain, their idols, and more.
Name: Mikey Charvetto Parody
Idol: Alisson Becker because he is the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment. Makes difficult saves look easy while being brave on the pitch and a great sportsman.
An admirable player in Gibraltar: Jayce Olivero
Q: How have you found your time playing in Spain?
A: The standard of training and matches in Spain is higher than in Gibraltar and more intense. There are more teams in the league. You have to travel to other pitches on away matches and you don’t always know your opposition which makes things more interesting.
Name: Jay Coombes
Idol: Carlos Puyol because he was a great captain, fantastic defender, and humble person.
An admirable player in Gibraltar: Lee Coombes
Q: What kind of impact has Lee Coombes & Jamie Coombes had on your development as a footballer?
A: Lee and Jamie have had a great impact on me as a footballer, watching them play from a very young age made me develop my passion for the game. It also made me realise I wanted more, football is my life and my dream is to make it happen.
Name: Daniel Smith ‘Dani’
Idol: Steven Gerrard because he was a leader on the pitch and was a great example as a professional footballer.
An admirable player in Gibraltar: Roy Chipolina
Q: How has playing in Spain helped you as a player?
A: You start playing 11-aside at a younger age, and you play on a full-sized pitch. The football matches are very physical, so You have to work on your strength. You may not always start a game or play in the position you want to, so it has also helped me develop my mental strength. I have become more confident, and I am enjoying the experience of playing in a different country.
Name: Kai Bartolo
Idol: Neymar Jr because he uses a lot of skill and pace. He is always aware of the pitch and is one step ahead of everyone else which leads to him creating chances and score goals.
An admirable player in Gibraltar: Lee Casciaro
Q: What’s changed in your approach to playing football in Spain compared to Gibraltar?
A: When I first moved to Spain I joined a team that was a year older which enabled me to play in games in my team and the team of my age group. I found the training more intense and more physical. We trained three times a week and had a league game every weekend. I had to understand the style of play and learn new skills. It was competitive so I had to increase my pace. Overall, I believe my ability to play football has increased rapidly in such a short space of time. Spanish football has more competition within games, which enables me to focus and be in the right mindset for the game. In Gibraltar, the competition levels were not high because all the good players move to one or two good teams. I am glad that I play in Spain because I face different and difficult challenges in each game.
Name: Evan Villa
Idol: Kylian Mbappé because of his commitment and how he plays on the pitch, his style of play, and his pace.
An admirable player in Gibraltar: Andrew Hernandez
Q: With Andrew once playing for one of Cadiz’s youth teams, does Spanish youth football match your playing style?
A: Yes, Spanish football does match my playing style as it is more tactical, physical and there is more competition in the league.
Lynx, who were fourth in the Gibraltar National League, and first in the Futsal Premier Division, said it was “easier said than done” to try and not declare the leagues or cups null and void, while also confirming that it is “business as usual” at the club, who have confirmed they are maintaining their “posture toward protecting the interest” of their players and staff.
Lynx also reference the high number of minutes given to Home Grown Players in football season, as reported by Football Gibraltar earlier this week, where Lynx had given the third most minutes to HGP’s, and the most of any of the top six teams in the league. While they say that they had a mathematical chance of finishing third, and potentially securing a Europa League spot, they state they are “realistic and humble enough to say that Lincoln deserves the third spot and are the better team this season.”
Lynx have become the first team to publicly support the decision to finalise and null and void the leagues, after Europa FC and Mons Calpe SC voiced their opposition in earlier statements, and Lynx’s support is notable given that in futsal they have been denied a league title despite being 11 points clear of Europa in second, with a game to go before the playoffs.
The club also note they received the £5,000 prize money for qualifying for the UEFA Futsal Champions League, which the club, who are the only team to have represented Gibraltar in futsal in Europe, state that it was thanks to them the prize money was introduced. Lynx state “Considering the league Null or void, The Board was of the view that this amount should go to Lynx FC as its main purpose is to assist UEFA Futsal CL rep with the costs associated with the tournament.”
The final paragraph of the statement, which you can viewhere, sees Lynx say “The club will continue doing what we do best, and that is to speak the truth, support the community and push Locals to the highest stage of their careers.”
Mons Calpe this evening issued a statement, where they expressed their disappointment at the recent decision made to finalise the League, without deciding a League winner, as well as the termination of the Gibtelecom Cup, where they were semi-finalists.
Mons, who earlier today announced positive news on the condition of their manager Luis Manuel Blanco, who was hospitalised a month ago after testing positive for Covid-19, came out this evening in agreement with Europa FC’s statement over the decision made to terminate and then null and void the league and cup.
The statement, in which Mons claims that there are “high possibilities in which defining matches could take place safely, behind closed doors“, came despite today’s ‘Unlock the Rock’ document, released by HM Government of Gibraltar, states that: “At this initial stage of the unlocking process, invasion and most ball sports cannot be considered, given that it will be practically impossible to keep to social distancing requirements. These are to include, but are not limited to, basketball, football, netball, hockey and rugby. There is an entirely unavoidable and natural level of contact associated to these kinds of sports and it would be a challenge to observe social distancing in most instances of anything resembling ‘normal’ training and play. It is therefore envisaged that it is unlikely that these sports will be able to resume any time soon”.
The club, who were due to face Europa in the Gibtelecom Cup semi-final, argued that they had the chance of winning the cup, and therefore securing a Europa League spot. They also argue against the established rule across Europe, that if the winner of the domestic cup already qualifies for Europe, that the spot drops to the highest ranked league team without guaranteed European qualification, a rule which was bought in in recent years – notably not until after 2013/14 when Manchester 62 thought they had qualified for Europa League football by finishing second in the league, only for Europa to claim the spot as cup runners up after a 1-0 loss to Lincoln in the Rock Cup final.
Mons statement further goes on to state their belief that Gibraltar “should be observing how other nations and leagues are managing the finalisation of competitions”, while also stressing that Gibraltar should “not be going against UEFA’s recommendation, but instead attempt to complete every significant to ensure fairness is abided by throughout rather than making an abrupt decision.” However, the fact that the Goverment currently do not see any contact sports returning any time soon would appear to make that very unlikely unless there are significant changes.
We spoke to Joseph Chipolina about his recovery from injury, a review of Lincoln’s season and more.
Just before the GNL took a break for Christmas, Joseph Chipolina suffered an injury in Lincoln’s 2-0 win over Manchester 62. We asked the 32-year old how his recovery has gone, “Not the recovery we expected as we have had a little setback. I will need some manipulation and little surgery clean up as my knee won’t bend as it should. But all in all still doing what I can and building the quads up.”
With Covid bringing a halt to football in Gibraltar, we asked Joseph what he is doing during these tough times – “I am training 2 times a day one at lunchtime and one just before dinner time roughly at 19:45. I can’t really do cardio so what I am doing are workouts which I can do with my knee as it is.”
Before Covid brought a halt to the GNL – Lincoln were third, five points behind St Joseph’s in second, ten points behind rivals Europa in first and in the Gibtelecom Cup semi-final. Joseph reviewed his side’s season, “It hasn’t been the best of seasons but these things happen in football. Too many changes within the club etc but always for the best of the club, but all in all it is what it is and another year where we learn as a club and move on for our next challenge together as one.”
Nearly six months on from Gibraltar’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, which ended in a defeat to Switzerland at the Victoria Stadium, Joseph reviewed Gibraltar’s campaign – “I think we did quite well on some games; maybe on others we could have done better but that all comes down to us players maintaining our A-game all throughout the games. Lack of concentration is what is letting us down but we have improved vastly since the arrival of Julio Ribas who is an amazing coach and person.”
Lastly, we asked Joseph about any goals he has set for himself – “At this moment in time my goals are to try and play football again. My injury was a very harsh one, I had my ACL torn into bits, had my ICL torn 60%, had Both Interior and Exterior Meniscus torn, and my patellar dislocated, aggravating the patellar tendon. So my goal is to get as fit as I can and try to make it back on the field and keep doing what I most enjoy and love.”
With Europa’s title hopes dashed by yesterday’s announcement, the club today put together a statement, in which they have stated that, of the 54 UEFA Nations to have a domestic league (Liechtenstein has no league system), that Gibraltar is one of only three nations to have gone down the null and void option (the others being Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The club have noted that some nations have “terminated competition, but have used other criteria to declare a champion.”
The club, who were five points clear at the top of the league with four games to go, and unbeaten at the point of the league being null and voided, also go on to mention that “it would be concerning to see Gibraltar in the small minority of those who thought it was best to declare competition both null and void, and without a champion.” Europa make reference to the situation in Belgium, where after originally looking to null and void the league, the situation appears to be that their FA are now looking to end the season but declare a champion (most likely Club Brugge).
Europa also choose in the statement to make reference to some of their on-field achievements this season, including scoring 85 goals in 17 games, as well as having the better head-to-head record over St Joseph’s and Lincoln. It is also almost a year to the day since a team beat Rafa Escobar’s side in a competitive match at the Victoria Stadium, when Lincoln won 2-0 to lift the 2018/19 league title on the 11th May 2019. The club have described this year as having “meant to be a vintage year for us (the club)“, and that “to have this denied with four matches to go by what we believe might be a premature decision is a bitter pill to swallow“.
Finally, the club also mentions that their closest title challengers, St Joseph’s, have been denied the chance to potentially overtake Europa and win the title themselves – Saints were due to play Europa in the week the season was terminated, and a win for Raul Procopio’s side would have given them a real chance of a first league title since 1996, and only their second league title in 108 years of existence. Europa go on to say that this decision “only leaves us to look forward to the weeks ahead and examine the denouement of this situation as concerns other UEFA nations.“